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Thanksgiving and Corinthians (published in The North Weld Herald, 11/25/10)

posted Sep 7, 2013, 1:16 PM by Fccea Webmaster
The principal called his harried second-grade teacher into his office: "Miss Whitney, I don't mean to rain on your parade, but you simply cannot send thank-you notes to your pupils when they stay home because of illness." I think we can all relate to the desire to eliminate certain problem people!

The Apostle Paul saw it differently. He says in I Corinthians 1: "I give thanks to my God always for you . . . ." Have you ever considered the nature of the people for whom he was giving thanks? The rest of the letter is devoted to correcting deplorable actions and attitudes.

There were personality divisions, immaturity, lack of spiritual growth, pride, sexual immorality, lawsuits against each other, disagreement regarding eating food offered to idols, selfishness, insubordination, class distinctions, unworthy partaking of the Lord's Supper, fascination with showiness and temporal priorities to name a few!

This church was a mess! Had I been Paul, I do not think I would have begun the letter, "I thank God for you." One is left to wonder if there was a truly mature person among the whole crowd. Yet Paul says, "I give thanks to my God always for you . . . ."

Paul, of course, did not hesitate to deal graciously with the failures in Corinth. That was the purpose of the letter. Thanksgiving does not mean that one may not lovingly address issues of immaturity.

Notice the adjective "lovingly". There is a fine line between addressing the flaws we find in others in a loving way versus a critical way. Loving exhortation can easily morph into nauseating nagging.

What's one way to stay on the right side of that line? Cultivate heartfelt thanksgiving for those whose flaws make our lives difficult.

Human tendency is to major on the flaws. Paul didn't do that. Before he had any corrective advice he expressed his thanks that "in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift" (I Cor 1:4-7). He complimented the positives. It was part of why he was thankful for them.

He did another thing, too. He saw their future. He notes that with all their flaws, they were waiting on Christ who will "sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." He saw their guiltless future. These are great lessons in dealing with our "difficult" people.

Only the humble can identify evidences of grace in those needing adjusting -- only the humble. The self-righteous cannot. I remember a Peanuts cartoon. Linus is curled up in a chair reading a book. Lucy walks by, stares for a moment and says, "It's very strange; it happens just by looking at you." Linus asks, "What happens?" Lucy calmly answers, "I can feel a criticism coming on." Apart from grace, we all become like Lucy. What do you feel coming on when you look at those who haven't changed in your preferred timetable? Try something new. Try thanksgiving.

By His Grace, Pastor Dave

Heroes published in The North Weld Herald, 11/3/10

A local golfer played a championship course after a big tournament. On the first tee, he asked his caddie what club the tournament winner used there. The caddie said, "A three-wood." Bam! A three-wood, center of the fairway. "What club did he use now?" the golfer asked. "A seven-iron." The golfer hit a seven-iron straight into a water trap over the green. Angrily, the golfer addressed the caddie, "You said he used a seven-iron. Look where I landed -- in a water trap." The caddie said, "So did he."

It matters who we decide to emulate. All of us emulate someone. We have heroes whether we call them that or not. Some are worthy; some are not. Some don't want to be examples. All-star basketball player, Charles Barkley, famously declined saying, "I am not a role model.

God has no such reluctance. Several times the requirement is laid on mankind to "be holy for I am holy" (Lev. 11:44, et al). What Barkley rightfully declines, God rightfully insists upon.

But how does one imitate a God who can't be seen? Paul refers to God as someone "whom no one has ever seen or can see" (I Tim. 6:16). The Apostle John agrees: "No one has ever seen God . . ." (I John 4:12). So, how can we possibly imitate Him?

The answer, of course, is that in the person of Christ He "became flesh and dwelt among us." He is called "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15), because "in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" (Col. 1:19). If we want to know how God would live, we need look no further than Christ.

But there is a catch!

I have found that most people do not mind thinking of Jesus as a great example. But that is only because they have not thought about it sufficiently.

An old preacher named Dr. D. M. Stearns was once approached by a critic who said, "I do not care for this preaching of Christ, and the cross; it's better to be up-to-date. Preach Jesus, the teacher and example." Stearns replied, "Would you then be willing to follow Him if I preach Christ as the great example?" "I would," said the gentleman, "I will follow in His steps."

"In that case," said Dr. Stearns, "let us take the first step. I Peter 2:22 says, 'He committed no sin.' Can you take this step?" The critic stopped short. "No," he said, "I do sin, I must admit." "Well, then," said Dr. Stearns, "your first need of Christ is not as an example but as a Savior."

Try as I might, I would never be able to emulate Michael Jordan's basketball prowess. I'd need a new body -- a new life. Which, interestingly enough, is exactly what we can have -- in Christ. Jesus says in John 5:24 that, "whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life."

Receiving God's gift of life doesn't mean we get sinless, but we do get righteous! We trade our sin for His righteousness. The bargain of a lifetime as described in II Cor. 5:21, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Holy as He is holy! The world doesn't think much of holiness. But God values it highly; in fact, He requires it. We get it by accepting Jesus as Savior and as example.

By His Grace, Pastor Dave